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MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY (Ed) made his motion picture debut in Richard Linklater's acclaimed 1970s coming-of-age drama, Dazed and Confused after a chance meeting with producer/casting director Don Phillips at a hotel bar in Austin, where he was attending the U

MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY (Ed) made his motion picture debut in Richard Linklater's acclaimed 1970s coming-of-age drama, Dazed and Confused after a chance meeting with producer/casting director Don Phillips at a hotel bar in Austin, where he was attending the University of Texas. His character of Wooderson, although written as a brief role, became one of the film's most memorable after Linklater encouraged the actor to improvise additional material, which the director embellished from joist three initial scenes to more than 300 lines.

Three years later, McConaughey became an "overnight" sensation with his riveting performance as attorney Jake Brigance in Joel Schumacher's movie adaptation of John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill. The film, also starring Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson, surpassed the $100 million mark at the box office and earned the young actor rave reviews and unexpected stardom.

McConaughey solidified his bankability last year with a pair of plum roles-as Palmer Joss, a spiritual scholar and top-level government liaison opposite Oscar winner Jodie Foster in Robert Zemeckis' sci-fi epic, Contact; and Roger S. Baldwin, the Philadelphia lawyer who, in 1839, defended the mutinous African slaves aboard the ship Amistad in Steven Spielberg's historical drama that captured four Academy Award' nominations.

The Texas native (from Uvalde and Longview) had entertained a career in law before tackling the entertainment field when he enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin. It wasn't until the completion of his sophomore year that he made the switch to the school's film curriculum after conferring with a boyhood friend also studying film at N.Y.U.

After wrapping Linklater's film in 1992, McConaughey returned to the university to complete his degree. During his senior year, he shot and directed a 12-minute short centered in the world of low-riders called Chicano Chariots, filmed on location in the Hispanic communities of Austin, Houston and San Antonio.

Before relocating to Los Angeles, he starred as Vilmer, the bloodthirsty row Truck driver, in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. Upon his arrival in L.A., he quickly landed work (in his very first Hollywood audition) as the righteous Arizona cop in Herb Ross' Boy on the Side and followed with roles in Judgement, My Boyfriend's Back and Angels in the Outfield.

He also co-starred as Sheriff Buddy Deeds in John Sayles' widely acclaimed Oscar-nominated drama, Lone Star, and portrayed a trucker opposite Bill Murray and an elephant in Larger Than Life. Most recently, McConaughey reunited with writer-director Linklater in The Newton Boy, playing one of a quartet of brothers who were notorious for their successful spree of bank robberies from Texas to Toronto in the 1920s.

McConaughey's production company, j.k. livin' (short for "just keep livin'," which he adapted from one of his lines in Dazed and Confused) is developing several projects for Warner

Bros. and Imagine Entertainment. His company recently produced Making Sandwiches with Sandra Bullock's Fortis Films, which debuted at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival.

The company also executive produced the feature documenta

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